Oregon Sports Angels Founder Kate Delhagen

Investor Q&A is an interview series with investors in the health, fitness, and wellness markets.

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Kate Delhagen, founder and president of Oregon Sports Angels, a membership-based investment group investing in the future of sports and athletics. Kate discusses the power of sports and OSA’s strategic investments in AI, connected devices, pickleball, and more.

Can you tell us about Oregon Sports Angels?

Kate Delhagen: I started Oregon Sports Angels five years ago… on a flip chart. It was an idea that had been percolating for a few years.

I had some relevant experience from working at sports startups, raising venture capital, working in the industry, and being an accidental angel investor — so, I knew there was a gap in seed-stage funding, particularly in this sector.

When I decided to pursue the idea, I resigned from Nike and began to recruit some great sports industry, tech, and entrepreneurial people to form our initial investor network. I also started to scout interesting companies in our vertical in the Pacific Northwest.

Our first pitch meeting in December 2017 went so well that everyone asked, “when’s the next one?” So, I knew we were on to a good idea and had found our initial product-market fit.

Today, we have nearly 50 members, including a dozen outside of Oregon. We source deals nationally and collaborate with a number of ecosystem partners.

Do you have specific investment criteria?

KD: OSA is a member-based angel network, so everyone makes personal investment decisions. As one of our members says, “we screen and conduct due diligence as a team; we invest as individuals.”

We especially like athlete founders and diversity, and we look for companies creating products and/or services for athletes, teams, or fans.

We are typically part of the company’s first outside money, as in pre-seed or seed; occasionally Series A.

We strongly prefer traction in terms of minimum viable product (MVP)/revenue, and we are currently investing only in US-based companies.

We don’t invest in teams, leagues, or real estate development, and we don’t look at general “wellness” or medical tech companies either.

What’s the firm’s thesis as it relates to sports and fitness?

KD: We believe that sports and fitness participation—be it indoor, outdoor, individual, team, competitive, or noncompetitive—is a human right.

We know that being active, and engaging with people while participating in sports and fitness activities (including as fans), makes us better people and builds stronger communities. Thus, startups innovating with products and services that can transcend an initial consumer segment or category are appealing.

We also believe that sports have the power to change the world, so we have a strong interest in finding investors and founders who share our missions of improving diversity, inclusion, and equality, and we have a keen interest in companies that respect the planet.

Do you use any frameworks or filters to evaluate potential investments?

KD: Yes, our initial filters are: whether they’re a US-based company; if the product and/or technology company serves athletes, teams, and/or fans; ideally, if it has a MVP, commercial traction, or IP; and if it’s seeking its first outside capital raise in the range of $300K to $2M.

Can you share a few notable investments you’ve made and your rationale for investing?

KD: We love innovations in sports products, sports tech, and related platforms. If it’s something that might be on an athlete’s body or in an athlete’s gym bag, sports closet, garage, field of play, or on their phone, we might look at it.

Because we do such early-stage investing, the quality of the founder and the early team is critical to our decision.

We have funded 20 companies in the first four-plus years. A few to note…

Nix Biosensors: single-use sensors that provide real-time, personal hydration status during running, training, and competition to optimize performance.

Uplift Labs: AI-powered technology that delivers real-time movement tracking and 3D analysis to enhance performance and health using only a smartphone.

MaxOne: a virtual coaching platform that enables teams to train, connect, and grow together from anywhere.

TopCourt: an e-learning platform that offers tennis fans inspiration and instruction from the sport’s most iconic players.

Algenesis/BlueView: fully biodegradable materials for performance footwear and line of completely biodegradeable shoes.

Handful: women’s sports bras and apparel.

Mendi: CBD products by athletes, for everyday athletes.

Revolin: innovative pickleball paddles and products.

Quintar: the world’s first AR-centered fan technology platform company enabling content owners, creators, and rights holders to build captivating live-action experiences.

What’s your process for sourcing deals? How can a founder get on your radar?

KD: OSA only accepts inquiries through our website www.oregonsportsangels.org.

We screen weekly for our quarterly pitch events. Additionally, we partner with most sports tech accelerators and gladly share dealflow with many great VCs.

Are there specific concepts or categories you’d like to invest in?

KD: Sports products—shoes, clothing, gear, etc.—is a very developed category, which we know well. And yet, we see many cool ideas and innovations, and we have backed a few.

Human performance monitoring through sensors (anything worn on-body or embedded in clothing) is also becoming well-developed, and we anticipate innovation and consolidation. Adjacently, we see performance optimization and recovery as early to middle innings —- and there are a lot of areas for innovation. Many of these companies have the potential to scale beyond sports to other consumer segments or populations.

Meanwhile, we believe the trend of connected fitness—especially post-pandemic—will remain relevant and attractive. This includes connected devices and content, along with apps or services that aggregate consumer segments into larger communities.

And personally, as many of us are former collegiate athletes, we are excited about the emerging NIL market, which is in the early stages of development.

Related reading from Fitt Insider:
The Sports Tech Stack Gets an Upgrade
Issue No. 149: Investor Insights, Sports Tech Edition

If you’re interested in joining us for an Investor Q&A, send an email to team@fitt.co.